How Does a Turbo Work?

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Source | Dave_7/Flickr

Auto manufacturers have almost exclusively used turbochargers in sports cars or race cars in the last couple of decades. Considering their main purpose is to provide a large boost in power, that does make a lot of sense. Now that automakers need to improve the fuel economy in vehicles across their lineups, they’ve started using turbocharged engines in daily drivers too.

This rise in popularity is mainly because turbochargers make engines work more efficiently. And when engines don’t have to work as hard, they use less fuel. Fuel-cost savings are among the top benefits of a turbocharger, along with the power output surge it provides.

Despite more widespread use of turbochargers in recent years, there are still a lot of questions about what they do and how a turbo works. We’re going to take a look at the technology behind turbochargers. We’ll also look at how they’ve evolved since they first appeared in a production vehicle back in 1962.

What is a turbo and how does a turbo work?

To understand how a turbo works, you first need to know its components and what each of them does. The two fundamental parts are a compressor and a turbine, forming what is essentially an air pump. The compressor consists of a wheel, a housing, and a diffuser. The turbine, for its part, has a wheel and a housing.

The main goal of a turbocharger is to boost the power output of an engine, without having to increase the engine’s size. Here’s how a turbo provides power:

  1. It takes in exhaust gasses from the engine through its turbine wheel.
  2. This process causes the turbine wheel to start spinning. A shaft connects the turbine wheel to the compressor wheel, causing it to rotate as well.
  3. Once the compressor wheel begins to spin, it takes in ambient air and compresses it.
  4. From there, it sends the compressed air through the compressor housing over to the chambers of the engine.
  5. The compressed air enters the engine’s combustion chambers, providing the engine with more power and torque.

Nowadays, automakers factory-install or offer as aftermarket parts a few different types of turbos. Beyond the basic type of turbo configuration—the single turbo—there are parallel twin turbo configurations, sequential turbos, and quad turbos.

1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass/F85

1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass/F85, Source | Greg Gjerdingen

From the ’62 Oldsmobile Cutlass and Chevrolet Corvair, to Ford’s EcoBoost

The first production car to feature a turbocharged engine was the 1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass. This classic car was powered by a 3.5-liter aluminum V8 engine, with a power output of 215 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. That same year, Chevrolet rolled out a turbocharged Corvair. Both became trendsetters for turbocharged cars. In 1975, Porsche introduced its first turbocharged model: the 911 Turbo, helping make the technology famous around the globe.

For the past few years most global automakers launched models that use a turbocharged engine, with Ford’s EcoBoost technology arguably leading the way. Ford includes EcoBoost engines across most of its lineup, including the F-150, sports cars, family sedans, and SUVs. Its main turbo-engine competitors include Audi, Chevrolet, and Volvo. The market should continue to grow—many European and US automakers say they plan to invest in this technology for years to come. (Japanese manufacturers have focused more on hybrids and electric vehicles.)

Lower fuel consumption, higher power output—but at a cost

Like with most vehicle technologies, turbochargers have their drawbacks. To create power, the turbocharger supplies the engine with more condensed air by using the exhaust energy from the engine, which would otherwise be wasted. Turbocharged engines deliver the same amount of power as non-turbocharged engines twice their size. Because of that, automakers don’t have to install larger engines.

But there’s a reason why turbos have yet to become a staple in every single car. Turbocharged engines are more expensive to build than their naturally aspirated counterparts. Creating an efficient and durable turbo is a complicated engineering process. That’s why they were usually found in luxury, high-performance cars. Only recently have cost reductions helped get them into more mainstream models.

Aside from high production costs, there are also a couple of downsides to turbos. One of the biggest drawbacks from a consumer perspective is turbo lag. Turbo lag is the time it takes for a turbocharger to start supplying the engine with an increased pressure and, consequently, a power boost. A turbocharger only provides a boost after it reaches a certain RPM threshold. Turbo lag is the time it takes an engine to reach that threshold after idling, or from a low speed.

Reaching the threshold for a power boost can lead to another downside of using a turbocharger. Once it reaches the threshold, the turbo speedily delivers an increase in power. That power boost can make the car difficult to control, which makes turbos potentially dangerous if a driver doesn’t know what to expect.

Sticking around

Even with the pitfalls, the consensus in the automotive industry seems to be that turbos are here to stay, and they’ll continue to get more popular in the near future. Automakers face strict fuel economy standards in many markets around the globe, prompting them to invest in fuel-saving technologies like turbochargers. Good thing we think they’re pretty fun.

What about you? Are you a fan of turbos? Share your tips and experience in the comments.

 

The Story of Grip Clean: How Bryce Hudson Made a Product We Love

Bryce Hudson standing behind his motorcycle

Bryce Hudson

Need to get your hands clean after working in the lawn and garden? Or worse, that nasty grease from working on the rear differential? If only there were an effective product that didn’t dry out your hands. Actually, there is one: Grip Clean hand soap, created by a pro motocross rider, using dirt as a primary ingredient. And, no, this is not an ad. I first saw it on “Shark Tank” and had ordered it before the segment ended. The stuff works.

Hard work = filthy hands

Bryce Hudson knows a thing or two about being dirty. Riding any kind of motorcycle off-road will get you filthy, but ripping around a motocross course at the X Games makes for award-winning grime. Hudson took gold in his first X Games and was the youngest competitor in his class for all four of his appearances. It’s not all trophies and medals, though. In 2013, he missed a landing in competition and suffered multiple fractures to his left tibia. He missed eight weeks of competition but was still able to wrench.

“Throughout my career of being a professional motocross athlete, I always had to do my own mechanic work on my machines,” says Hudson. “And that led to having constantly dirty, greasy, sticky—you name it—kind of hands. I have always used the products that are on the market, but they would cause my skin to dry and crack or even break out in rashes.”

Hudson wanted a heavy-duty but all-natural product, but he couldn’t find one in stores. While working with chemicals all day, the last thing he wanted to put on his hands was more harsh chemicals and abrasive detergents. Synthetic cleaners were not the answer. Then he noticed something about dirt.

Bottle of Grip Clean in a garage

The big idea

“I used to use handfuls of dirt to spread onto oil spills in my garage when I made a mess. It always absorbed all the oils with ease.” Dirt is a natural exfoliant, which is why high-end salons use mud masks and baths to get their clients clean. Hudson used this same approach to develop Grip Clean as a vegetable-based blend with a dirt additive. But don’t look to your backyard for effective soap, as Grip Clean’s “dirt” is a cosmetic-grade pumice.

“This allows the dirt to go deep into the cracks of your hand to latch on hard to remove grease that would normally remain. I tried this theory in many of our test batches, and lo and behold, the product worked better at removing grease than any chemical soap on the market.”

Hudson says he tested small batches for two years to get the formulation right. “And then I gave some samples out to some fellow race teams I knew. The feedback I got back from everyone was phenomenal and everyone wanted more of the product. Suddenly I became known as the ‘soap boy,’ and the rest is history!”

Well, not quite history, as Hudson still had to learn how to do everything, from getting the formula right in larger batches to making labels and proper packaging. Initially, he made batches in his garage with a 5-gallon bucket. A Kickstarter campaign found 195 backers and proved the marketability. But it was still mainly a one-man operation at home. Since Hudson didn’t yet have the capacity to sell on a national level, he had to find an investor.

Bryce Hudson on the set of Shark Tank

Bryce Hudson appearing on Shark Tank

Shark bait

“Getting onto the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ was hands-down one of the most fun, hardest, and scariest things I’ve done in my life.” Hudson stood in line before dawn with 4,000 other people to pitch their creations to the producers. He thought his odds of being picked were low, but a few months later, Hudson was pitching Grip Clean to a nationwide audience.

“I rode my motorcycle in with my helmet on. I took my helmet off and began to give my sales pitch. Suddenly, Mark Cuban and the Sharks were laughing and interrupted me mid-speech. Little did I know I had a serious case of “helmet hair,” where my hair was completely messed up and sticking straight up.” The hair and makeup crew helped him out, and then the pitch went as planned.

Besides that quick fix, he says the pitch went pretty much as aired. Shark Lori Greiner said that the product should really be sold in stores but believed in its product enough to invest. Grip Clean took off from there.

Hitting it big

“We got a ton of orders the night of airing and sold out of product within minutes,” says Hudson. “I was ecstatic but also bummed I didn’t have more product to sell! We were approached by many large retailers all interested in carrying the product, Advance Auto Parts being one of them.

“Partnering with Advance Auto Parts is truly a dream come true. Anyone starting a company or product always has their sights set on getting it into big box retailers and stores. Little did I know how much work it takes to be ready for that moment. Advance believes in our product.”

Freestyle motocross still has Hudson’s heart, but he says he’s found a new passion in his company. Grip Clean is industrial strength but won’t dry out your hands. It’s all-natural, biodegradable, doesn’t leave a smelly residue, and it’s made in the USA. In short, it’s a gold-medal winner.

Have you used Grip Clean? Share what you think about it in the comments.

Race Fans Road Trip: Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Aerial view of downtown Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte, NC, Source | Erick Lee Hodge/Unsplash

There’s nothing quite like a road trip to Charlotte, NC, to get immersed in the world of NASCAR and racing. Right off the line, the majority of NASCAR race teams are based in the area. Then you have the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For race fans, the Queen City is hard to beat. So tune up the car and drive on down (within the legal speed limit, mind you) to check out these unforgettable experiences.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASA Firecracker Run at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Source | James Willamor/Wikimedia Commons

May is a popular time to visit the Charlotte Motor Speedway, thanks to spring weather and big races like the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend and the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star. Located in Concord, just north of the big city, Charlotte Motor Speedway (formerly Lowe’s Motor Speedway) is a 1.5-mile quad-oval track. Race fans are ensured a great view from anywhere in the 89,000-seat stadium, thanks to a massive, nearly 16,000-square-foot HDTV. For a different kind of race experience, jaunt across the street to watch drivers tear it up at the four-lane zMax Dragway or get a taste of North Carolina red clay at the Dirt Track.

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Classic NASCAR car

Source | Flickr

At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, there’s more to see than famous cars like the Fabulous Hudson Hornet and Lee Petty’s Oldsmobile Super 88 (#42). You can retrace the history of NASCAR on a 64-foot-wide projection screen in the High Octane Theater. Then try out for the pit crew, and sit in the driver’s seat. With the Hall of Fame’s interactive, loud-as-life exhibits, visitors get a front-row seat to the best NASCAR has to offer.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

NASCAR Petty Driving Experience. Dodge Charger

Richard Petty Driving Experience, Source | Wikimedia Commons

Along with parachuting out of a plane and bungee jumping off a bridge, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is on the bucket list of every adrenaline junkie. Roar along the Charlotte Motor Speedway in a stock car at up to 160 mph. Just watching the in-car video is enough to make your palms sweat. Of course, this experience doesn’t come cheap. A little more than a hundred bucks will get you a shotgun ride in a stock car for three laps. If you want to take the wheel like a rookie, and race eight heart-pounding laps, it’ll cost you around $450. Bring friends and family to watch. And maybe a change of pants.

Race shops

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Richard Childress, Source | Wikimedia Commons

Some of the biggest names in NASCAR call the Charlotte area home, including Richard Petty Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Inc. The racing shops feature a variety of tours, museums, showrooms, retail stores, and fan experiences. Visitors to Richard Childress Racing, based in aptly named Welcome, NC, can visit the RCR Cup and XFINITY shops. They can also tour a 47,000-square-foot museum housing nearly 50 race vehicles.

Childress Vineyards

two wine glasses

Childress Vineyards, Source | Courtesy Childress Vineyards

If you’ve been to a race during your visit to North Carolina, chances are you’ve gorged yourself on a foot-long hotdog and cheese fries, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if your ears are still ringing from the track and your palette needs cleansing from the grit and exhaust, then check out Childress Vineyards. Owned by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, the 72-acre vineyard and winery is located in Lexington, 10 minutes from RCR’s shop and museum. Tour the vineyard and taste a selection of the winery’s 30 award-winning varietals. Then settle back on the covered bistro patio with lunch and a glass of Cabernet, and toast to the checkered flag at the end of your trip.

Have you visited any of these Charlotte race venues? Tell us about your experience in the comments.


Heads up: You can win a VIP trip to the Coca-Cola 600 in May! Enter now for a chance to win:

  • Air travel and hotel for each grand prize winner and their guest
  • VIP access to track, hospitality suite, and paddock over race weekend
  • VIP access to the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and a meet & greet with the band

Our Top 3 Vehicle Evolutions in Hollywood Reboots and Remakes

Whenever Hollywood experiences a box-office hit, a sequel is almost inevitable. As fun as it is to see our favorite characters change and mature, it’s almost equally as exciting to see their iconic vehicles grow up. From then-and-now Camaros in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” to the evolution of the Mitsubishi Lancer, erm, Evolution within the “Fast and Furious” franchise, these are three of our favorites.

Chevrolet Camaro: “Transformers”

chevrolet-transformers-bumblebee

Source | DreamWorks

When a live-action version of “Transformers” hit big screens in 2007 (there was also an animated feature in 1986), the iconic Bumblebee took a couple of vehicular forms. However, it’s most remembered for turning into a fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro—of sorts. The car we saw was actually a concept unveiled in 2006.

For the film, Chevy placed body panels made from molds used for the concept on the chassis of a Holden Monaro. It was a precursor to the Gen 5 Camaro (topped by an SS trim boasting an LS3 6.2-liter V8 with 426 horsepower), which was only sold two years later.

A yellow 2017 Chevrolet Camaro

The sixth-generation Camaro, the basis for Bumblebee’s transformation in the upcoming “Transformers.” Source | Courtesy of Chevrolet

Fast-forward to summer 2017 and installment five of the series, “Transformers: The Last Knight.” In this chapter, Bumblebee will take on yet another form, this time a sixth-gen Camaro wearing some exterior aero modifications, including a more aggressive front fascia, hood cooling vents, and large spoilers all around. A trio of engines are available for the platform—which was revealed a year and a half ago—most interesting of which is the LT1 V8 churning out an impressive 455 horsepower.

Ford Mustang: “Gone in 60 Seconds”

Younger viewers who watched the 2000 version of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” starring Nicolas Cage, may not realize it was actually a loose remake of an identically titled 1974 release. Sharing more than just a name, the main automobile in both iterations was a classic Ford Mustang. The original featured a 1971 Mustang partially modified to look like an optioned-out 1973 using a newer grille, as well as black accenting on the hood and lower paneling reminiscent of the Mach 1 special edition.

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Source | Touchstone Pictures

In the reboot, the creative team decided to go with a slightly older pony car: a 1967 Mustang fastback, gussied up to resemble a Shelby GT500. A total of 12 ‘Stangs were sourced, and all were built for various purposes such as chase scenes and stunts. The vehicles were truly a hodgepodge of parts, utilizing aftermarket PIAA auxiliary lighting, Chevy Astro van billet grille components, 17-inch Schmidt wheels designed after Ford GT40 units, Lincoln Versailles rear ends, and a plethora of custom-fabricated fiberglass pieces.

Of the 12 Eleanors, only seven survived after shooting wrapped up, according to Mustang Monthly. It breaks our hearts that even a single one was damaged.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: “The Fast and the Furious”

Arguably Mitsubishi Motor’s biggest fan-favorite product, the Lancer Evo, is prominently featured in two of the biggest underdog F&F follow-ups: “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” The former is where we get the first sighting, when the feds give Paul Walker’s character a tracking-device-equipped 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII to drive to an undercover drug cartel meeting. It’s the scene that made us love the Evo.

The all-wheel drive sedan had a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill, equipped with nitrous tanks, of course (hey, it was the early 2000s), and sported a Japanese-spec DAMD body kit, ARC trunk wing, and Motegi Racing alloys.

In the third F&F movie, the race-ready Lancer skipped a generation and returned as a 2006 Evo IX GSR, given to protagonist Sean Boswell after he totals his mentor Han’s Nissan Silvia while learning how to drift around corners. Like the VII, the IX employs a boosted 2.0-liter powerplant that in stock form makes 276 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, here benefiting from the addition of a Rhys Millen Racing air intake and exhaust downpipe. Aesthetically, it was fitted with an Alabama-based APR Performance body kit, spoiler and side mirrors, along with massive 19-inch RAYS G-Games rims. It looked—and was—fast.

There are too many reboots and remakes with great vehicles, and we’re guessing we missed some of your favorites. Share your picks in the comments.

Everything You Need to Know About Tie Rod Ends

tie rod end of a vehicle

Source | Craig Howell/Flickr

You might be thinking it’s time to replace your tie rod ends, or maybe your mechanic laid down the law. Either way, it’s time to first understand the basics, like what is a tie rod end, as well as the symptoms of a failing tie rod end. While failing tie rods can be a serious issue, there are some easy solutions to the troubles you may have with them. Here’s a complete look at everything you need to know about tie rod ends.

What is a tie rod end, and what does it do

Tie rod ends are simple parts that connect the steering rack to the steering knuckle on each front wheel. An adjusting sleeve sits between the inner and outer tire rod ends. When you turn the steering wheel, it transmits that movement through various steering components until the tie rod ends push or pull the wheel and make the wheels turn. Having the ability to turn corners is pretty important, so tie rod ends play a large role in any vehicle’s safety.

Deceptively simple looking, the outer tie rod end hides some internal parts. Here’s a breakdown of the different pieces:

  • The long shaft body passes steering movement to the ball stud
  • The rounded part houses several bearings that give you proper steering movement even while compensating for bumpy roads
  • There’s usually a grease fitting on the back allowing the bearings to spin freely inside the housing
  • The bushing is there to keep road grit out of sensitive internal parts
  • The threaded bolt end goes into the steering knuckle
  • The inner tie rod end straight body connects to a bearing housing. It’s all covered by a rubber protective dust boot
Outer_tie_rod_end

Outer tie rod end, Source | MOOG

 

Inner_tie_rod_end

Inner tie rod end, Source | MOOG

 

Symptoms of failing tie rod ends

  • Uneven tire wear. If the inside or outside tread of your front tires are wearing early compared to the rest of the tread, it can be a sign that the wheel camber is incorrect.
  • Squealing sound from the front when turning. This sounds different from the squeal/groan the power steering makes when low on fluid. A failing tie rod end has more of a brief, high-pitched shriek. This could just be a bad ball joint, so take a look to be sure.
  • Loose steering feel. Also described as clunky or shaky steering, this will feel like a slight disconnect between steering movement and the associated movement in the wheel/tire.
  • Tie rod failure. This is the most severe sign. A broken tie rod causes steering loss, which could lead to an accident. This is why manufacturers take these components seriously and recall a vehicle if there’s a chance they were misassembled at the factory.

How to tell if tie rods are bad

Fortunately, it’s simple to check if the tie rods are bad. Jack up the front of vehicle, using an appropriate weight jack and rated jack stands. Once the wheel is entirely off the ground, check for play by placing your hands at nine o’clock and three o’clock positions (the midpoint of the left and right sides of the tire). Press with left, then right, alternating a push/pull movement on each side. If there is play or slop, it’s worth investigating further. The front is already jacked up, so take off the wheel and have a look underneath.

Right behind the brake rotor and hub, you should be able to see the tie rod end. Inspect it for any damage. If the bushing is torn, odds are road grit has accumulated inside and destroyed it, so you will need to replace the tie rod. If the bushing is solid, reach up and grasp the outer tie rod firmly, and give it a good shake. If it easily moves from side to side, it’s time for replacement.

Preventative maintenance is key

At every oil change, grease the tie rod ends. Look for a grease fitting on the outer edge by the bushing. Clean it off, and use a grease gun filled with the proper grease. The new grease pushes out the old, as well as any collected contaminants and road grit. Sure, it’s an extra step when changing the oil, but tie rod maintenance will delay the need for a tie rod replacement.

If it’s time to replace your tie rods, there is some good news. Since they are wear items that are meant to be replaced, they are easy to find online or in your local Advance Auto Parts store, and they’re affordable and easy to replace. You’d probably want adjustable tie rod ends in your souped-up classic, but the standard replacement parts are rock solid for daily driver duty.

Have any additional tips on tie rod ends? Drop a comment below.

Hidden Auto History Is Everywhere, Including Oklahoma City

America’s automotive past is all around us, but it’s usually hidden under decades of change. There were a lot more auto manufacturers back in the day, and many more car factories and dealerships. Usually, the buildings they occupied were abandoned and eventually torn down. Fortunately for us, some are still standing and tell a fascinating tale. So let’s examine the hidden automotive history in the architecture of Oklahoma City.

Why Oklahoma City? OKC is a comparatively young city not as well known for its automotive contributions as, say, Detroit. But, as evidenced in neighborhoods like the now-trendy Automobile Alley district, it played quite an important role in manufacturing. Here’s what Oklahoma City’s past looks like in the present.

Packard building in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Packard, 201 NW 10th St.

Packard built some of the most attractive cars in its day, and used ingenuity to compete with the giants of General Motors and Ford. Built in 1925 as a large dealership with indoor showrooms, its display area was big enough for a dynamometer to measure a new car’s horsepower. After Packard ceased operation in the ’50s, the building became a warehouse and, later, a bar.

Today, the early 20th-century brick architecture blends with modern windows the size of garage doors. Blueknight Energy now occupies the office space upstairs, while a large restaurant takes up most of the ground floor. Packard’s New American Kitchen echoes not only the former car company’s name but its ethos as well, with inspired yet affordable food.

Ford building in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Ford, 900 W. Main St.

Henry Ford was always looking for ways to decrease costs and mass-produce more cars. He found his answer in the 1909 Model T. Ford built this factory in 1916 as part of its expansion plans to supply cars to the people. Within a few years, the company built 24 more factories across the country to help meet demand for the Model T. At its peak, this particular factory cranked out 200 cars a day.

The Great Depression stopped car production, but Ford continued to use the space as a regional parts warehouse until 1967. The factory that got America on the road deserved a 21st-century makeover, and it got one in 2016. The 21c Museum Hotel is a boutique hotel and contemporary art museum worthy of its building’s historical importance.

Pontiac building in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Pontiac, 1100 N. Broadway

During Pontiac’s nearly 85 years making cars, the arrowhead logo fit legends like the GTO, Grand Prix, and Firebird, and later oddities like the Trans Sport and Aztek. Built in 1928, this 14,000-square-foot dealership likely featured cars like the 40-horsepower 6-28 coupe.

It’s now home to contemporary office space housing British Petroleum’s Lower 48 operations. While the workplace is entirely modern, the soul of the dealership is evident. Wooden floors are still spattered with paint, evidence of old-time bodywork. The break room features a garage door that opens to the sky. The ramp for loading vehicles onto the turntable display is still there. It’s some kind of irony that a dealership servicing petroleum-burning cars would later house offices of one of the world’s largest oil companies.

Hupmobile building in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Hupmobile, 824 N. Broadway

Hupmobile started building cars in Detroit, Mich., in 1909. It innovated one of the first steel car bodies but couldn’t last through the Great Depression and stopped production in 1940. This restored building housed the Shelburne Motor Company, which was really more of a new and used dealer with full-service mechanics and even parts reconditioning.

After Hupp fell apart, the building went through an industrial period before falling into disrepair, along with the rest of downtown OKC, in the ’70s. After a few decades of neglect, a full restoration created an attractive storefront and office space. The tall windows now provide an excellent showcase for fine-wine, spirits, and beer purveyor Broadway Wine Merchants. Even if you don’t have a Hupp—stop by for a visit.

GM factory in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

GM, 7125 S. Air Depot Blvd.

Modern factories are also hiding in plain sight. Completed in the late 1970s, this GM Assembly built the unfortunate X-body and the slightly-less-terrible A-body. It shifted with the times through various other cars before finally hitting it big with SUVs. A tornado strike severely damaged it in 2003, but GM spent the money to get the plant operational just 53 days later. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, and Oldsmobile Bravada rolled out the doors until 2006, when they shuttered and sold the plant.

Today, the 2.5-million-square-foot facility is home to the local Air Force base and still produces engines. This old factory may not make cars anymore, and the office spaces are the least fancy of the ones listed here, but the F-35’s 29,000-horsepower engines are pretty sweet.

Buick showroom in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Buick, 1101 N. Broadway

This is your grandfather’s Buick. Built in 1927, the four-story Buick building was one of the first indoor showrooms in OKC, and currently anchors the Midtown district. The brick and limestone exterior was meticulously restored in 2014 and topped by a new vintage-style neon sign. Dramatic high ceilings befitting a warehouse now look great with updated halogen and LED lighting. The turntable and car elevator are both intact and operable. Mixing old and new themes is the ground-floor restaurant, Broadway 10.

Buick dealership in Oklahoma City

Source | Andy Jensen

Buick, again, 504 N. Broadway

The Okies from a hundred years ago must have really liked Buicks. This is a smaller Buick dealership, as it was built in 1911 and earned the title of first showroom in the city. It was unique for being a direct sales showroom owned by Buick, rather than the dealer model we have today. There’s a trendy event room upstairs called “The Showroom” which is available for $3,000 an evening—roughly twice the price of a late 1920’s Buick. The building displays art from Ghost Gallery, and the street front is Red Prime Steakhouse.

Take a closer look at some old buildings, and you might catch a glimpse of America’s automotive history. This was just a brief look at one city—let us know if you’d like to see more. And tell us what’s hiding in your town.

The Best Route 66 Attractions

Beautiful Route 66, big sky and straight road

Source | Matthias/Flickr

The Mother Road still delivers one of the best road-trip experiences. Originally a transportation lifeline, Route 66 developed into a unique culture of old-school Americana that can’t be found anywhere else. Pick a few historical sites or see all the oddities. To help you choose, we’ve broken down some of the top attractions.

A massive meteor crater

Source | Meteor Crater Enterprises

Unusual scenery

Wide-open vistas are common scenery when driving Route 66. For a change of pace, when driving near Flagstaff, Ariz., look for signs pointing to Meteor Crater. Fifty-thousand years ago, a large chunk of ultra-dense hit the desert with enough force to vaporize the meteorite and clear out a three-quarter-mile-wide crater. It’s mostly intact today, and viewpoints offer a fascinating look into the basin more than 500 feet deep. Meteor Crater recalls some of the peace and tranquility of the Grand Canyon, except for the “created by a giant explosion” bit. Sure, it’s just a hole in the ground, but the scope of it is mind blowing.

 

Abandoned building in Glenrio, Texas

An abandoned building in Glenrio, Texas, Source | El-Toro/Flickr

A real ghost town

Nothing says “Old West” like an abandoned ghost town. Glenrio, Texas, sits on the border between New Mexico and Texas. Living memories from a past era, the gas station, hotel, post office, and two-dozen other buildings survive in surprisingly solid condition. Entirely abandoned, cars sit rusting in driveways and tall grass grows in massive cracks in the cement. Glenrio is quiet and empty, and an interesting, creepy experience for the type of people who love post-apocalyptic zombie movies.

For automotive geeks

If you are looking to entertain the kids (and your inner kid), head to the Lewis Antique Auto & Toy Museum in Moriarty, NM. This is Archie Lewis’ private collection, and since he’s been collecting for six decades, it’s huge. Inside this warehouse-like museum, there are 30 cars in original condition. If that’s not enough, you can wander through the yard, which is filled with more than 600 vehicles dating back over 100 years. There are fire trucks, T-Birds, Model Ts, Rancheros, and even a rarer selection rounded out by Nash, Packard, and Crosley. If the vintage iron doesn’t interest you, check out the giant selection of old-timey toys.

Vintage Indian motorcycle

Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, Source | Rex Brown/Flickr

A motorcycle museum

Motorcycles more your thing? The Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum in Miami, Okla., will get your motor runnin’. You might not be feeling the modern vibe of the building since it was built in 2006, but the allure here is what’s on display. Stunning classic and antique motorcycles fill the floors in flawless condition. WWII-era US Army Harley-Davidson WLAs, world-record jump bikes, and café racers share floor space with classic race bikes, cruisers, and sidecars. You’ll also set eyes on an unreal amount of equipment and accessories. It has the best gift shop on this list, as you can get real biker stuff, besides the usual Route 66 kitsch.

Source | scott1246/Flickr

Tourist trap

When talking must-see Route 66 attractions, no list is complete without Cadillac Ranch. Although it’s not actually a ranch, there are several Cadillacs here. Sunk into the ground nose-first are 10 Cadys from the late ’40s to early ’60s, which neatly covers the entire span of the tailfin era. This isn’t a museum, though—they encourage visitors to bring spray paint and leave their own graffiti. It’s the best hands-on exhibit on the road. The Ranch is a perennial work in progress, and you can supposedly smell the fresh spray paint from hundreds of feet away. Bring a camera, as your art won’t last long.

An underground cavern

The Meramec Caverns, Source | Tydence Davis/Flickr

Recreation

Need to cool off? Head underground to “Missouri’s buried treasure.” The Meramec Caverns outside Stanton, MO, were originally a saltpeter mine, until being partially blown up in the Civil War. Afterwards it was a Victorian-era party locale, Jesse James’ hideout, and, finally, a tourist destination known for the incredible natural formations. Huge rooms with 70-foot-high ceilings, impressive stalactites, still naturally under construction, and mysterious underground lakes await the visitor with a good flashlight. Tours are currently on hold for renovations but should resume by summer.

A former service station

Cars on the Route, Source | Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Good eats

When it’s time to stop for some grub, there’s no better Route 66 destination than an old fashioned diner. Cars on the Route is a former Kan-O-Tex service station-turned-restaurant and retail shop in Galena, Kan. The gas station retains the cool old-style gas pumps and décor, but the service bays have been cleaned out and remodeled as a ’50s-style burger joint. There’s no gas in those pumps so you can’t fill your tank, but you can fill up on “Cars”themed souvenirs. Speaking of, don’t miss the lifesize movie characters sitting out front.

Metal sculptures with glass bottles connected to them

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch near Oro Grande, Calif., Source | Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

One of a kind…

While you could take the kids to see the World’s Biggest Ketchup Bottle in Collinsville, Ill., there are larger oddities further west. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, just outside Oro Grande, Calif., is an incredible upcycled industrial-art forest. Like the Cadillac Ranch, this is also not a ranch but a cool interactive artwork. More than 200 handmade steel and glass “trees” rise from the desert in a surreal display, topped by everything from typewriters to old rifles. Like the best art, and the rest of Route 66, the quiet ranch leaves an impression.

No matter what you’re looking for on Route 66, you are likely to find it. Have a favorite destination on the Mother Road? Share it in the comments below.

No Truck? No Problem! How to Tow with Your Car

1955 Ford_airstream

1955 Ford Ranch Wagon towing an Airstream, Source | Flickr

A truck is great for getting work done, but what if you don’t have one? Fear not—you can still make things happen. If you have a car, van, or crossover, odds are your vehicle has a tow rating. As long as you follow common sense when towing, you can probably get the job done with your car. Here’s how.

All show, no tow?

Check if towing is even possible in your vehicle by looking in your owner’s manual. In the cargo and towing section it might state something along the lines of, “Manufacturer does not recommend towing with your vehicle.” At this point, it’s time to look into a truck rental. But if the manual lists a certain towing capacity of “x” pounds, this is the manufacturer’s weight limit for towed loads. If you don’t have your owner’s manual, you can find many vehicles’ tow ratings online.

Don’t base your opinion of towing success on looks or power, as there are several cars that can tow surprising loads. The current Ford Mustang GT, with a 5.0L V8 making 400 lb/ft of torque, has a tow rating of 1,000 pounds. Oddly, the small 10th-generation Toyota Corolla, equipped with a 2.4L four cylinder, has a 1,500-pound tow rating. If you have a Honda Odyssey with a 3.5L V6, you can tow up to an impressive 3,500 pounds.

You may be wondering why these tow figures are so low compared to modern full-size trucks. The short answer is safety. The Mustang GT has the torque to theoretically tow a space shuttle. The issue is, it can’t do it safely on public roads for an extended amount of time.

Let’s say you have that Mustang with its tow rating of 1,000 pounds. A buddy asks you to dramatically exceed that and tow his or her 3,000-pound Ford Focus across town. It can be done… badly. The Mustang could physically tow the Focus, but it would do so with dramatically increased drivetrain wear and potential serious damage to the chassis. The brakes would be inadequate for the increased weight, and the trailer or towed car will sway on the highway as it tries to match the movements of the tow vehicle. In short, it would be a scary and damaging drive, so in the real world don’t ever exceed the tow ratings.

Get hitched

To connect that trailer to your tow vehicle, you’ll need a hitch. A tow hitch attaches to the chassis of the vehicle to create the strongest point to connect a trailer or camper. Most hitches bolt onto the vehicle with basic tools and take less than an hour to install. Like with vehicles, don’t go by looks alone, as similar-looking hitches can have wildly different tow ratings. The two main points you will need to look at are the class rating and the receiver opening.

Class I hitches are rated up to 2,000 pounds gross trailer weight, with a 200-pound maximum trailer tongue weight. The tongue weight is simply the force exerted on the hitch from the trailer. For a real-world example, this means if you have a 400-pound light trailer hauling a 560-pound Harley-Davidson Sportster, you’re plenty safe with this hitch. The Corolla mentioned above would have no problem towing 960 pounds out of its 1,500-pound tow rating, if the tongue weight stayed under 200 pounds. Set the Harley above the trailer axle for a neutral load on the trailer tongue. This Class I hitch usually has a 1-1/4″ square receiver opening. This size accepts ball mounts but can also take bike racks, cargo carriers, or other accessories.

Class II hitches are medium duty, rated for up to 3,500 pounds of trailer weight and 300 pounds of max tongue weight. Class III are even heavier duty, with a trailer weight of 6,000 pounds and tongue weight of 600 pounds. Keep in mind, it’s the hitch that can handle that, not your Corolla.

For more details about tow hitches and getting geared up for towing, check out our tips for first-time towers.

Going the extra mile

For a single trip towing across town, no extra equipment is required. If it looks like you may need to tow more often, here are some additions that can help make it easier and safer.

  • Towing mirrors help you see past the trailer. Since rear visibility takes a huge hit while towing, these extended mirrors let you see around it. Other motorists will appreciate that you can see them.
  • Trailer wiring kits make it easy to stay safe and legal out on the road. Most passenger cars don’t have trailer wiring from the factory, so getting the brake lights and turn signals to work can mean splicing wires. Trailer wiring kits are plug-and-play.
  • Transmission coolers keep the temperatures down in one of your vehicle’s critical drivetrain components. Heavy loads make your vehicle work harder, increasing heat, which can damage a transmission. These affordable add-ons reduce the potential for expensive damage from towing.
  • Larger rotors with heavier duty pads will allow you to safely stop that heavy load. The factory brakes were meant to stop just the vehicle’s weight, so they can overheat when trying to stop additional weight.
  • Hitch covers look cool. Technically they offer some protection from the elements so the receiver doesn’t rust, but mainly they offer a unique way to customize your ride.

You can tow without a truck, but you have to do it the right way to stay safe. Ever towed something with a car? Share your towing tips in the comments.

Crucial Cars: GMC Syclone

black GMC Syclone parked on a small-town streetImagine this: It’s summer 1991 and you’re cruising around in your new Mustang GT. You rumble up to a red light and notice a black Chevy S-10 with lower body skirts and fancy wheels roll up in the next lane. The streets are empty, and you sense the guy in the small pickup staring at you. When you catch his gaze, he grins and gives the “let’s go” sign. Really, buddy? OK.

So the light goes green and, with wide-open road ahead, you both hit it. With a couple of chirps from the rear Goodyears, the ‘Stang leaps away from the light. You take him off the line, but then something weird happens—the black pickup streaks away, hissing angrily and showing you its shrinking taillights. As you lift off the gas in defeat, you notice a tailgate decal you’d never yet seen or heard about. It says: GMC Syclone.

Defeating a Ferrari

We imagine this played out more than a few times for unsuspecting drivers—not just American performance iron, but also wheeling European purebreds such as M-edition BMWs and even the occasional Ferrari.

Car and Driver pitted a GMC Syclone against a Ferrari 348, and the lowly GMC pickup beat the Italian stallion in a quarter-mile drag race. Of course, if both drivers kept their feet in it, the 348 would’ve pulled away shortly after. It did have a top speed some 40 mph higher than the Syclone’s. But no matter. For most Americans, 0-to-60 and quarter-mile performance mean a lot more in the real world than top speed. However, exploring your car’s terminal velocity is best done at an airstrip or the Autobahn.

The Syclone’s acceleration numbers were just incredible for the time, with 0-to-60 and quarter-mile times running in the low-five-second and low-14-second range, respectively, according to Car and Driver. Since turbocharged engines like cooler, denser air, a cool day would likely have those times improving by a few tenths. That might be why GMC claimed a 13.7-second quarter. Clearly, this was a pickup with pickup.

Power-packed pickup

rear view of a black Syclone parked in a warehouse district

Source | Creative Commons

Introduced and officially produced only for the 1991 model year (there’s an unconfirmed rumor that three were produced for 1992), the GMC Syclone was a lot of truck. It was much more than a Sonoma (itself identical to the Chevy S-10) compact pickup truck with a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6 stuffed under the hood. That boosted version of the workhorse 4.3 was a force to be reckoned with, as it was conservatively rated at 280 horsepower back when the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 made 225.

But the Syclone also featured all-wheel drive (with a 35/65 front/rear power split). The AWD system helped turn that prodigious power into performance. The four tires dug in and hurled the truck onward when the hammer dropped, instead of sending the rear tires up in smoke while time ticked away. Completing the performance package was an efficient four-speed automatic transmission, a lowered suspension, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

Tasteful, not tacky

Available only in a menacing blacked-out exterior finish, as with Buick’s Grand National, the Syclone’s visual tweaks were aggressive without being overdone. They included those flared-out rocker panels, fog lights, handsome 16-inch alloy wheels and relatively discreet red “Syclone” decals.

To those who weren’t familiar with this pumped-up pickup, it looked like it was just a Chevy S-10 or GMC Sonoma with a body kit and wheels. Inside, special treatment consisted of black cloth buckets with red piping and “Syclone” headrest monograms, a full instrument package and a console with a shifter borrowed from the Corvette.a red Syclone with Marlboro decals in a parking lot

Marlboro Racing paint and decals, Source | Creative Commons

Though not production versions, there were 10 customized Syclones given away in a Marlboro Racing contest. These special Syclones were painted red with white graphics and featured a targa roof (i.e. a one-piece removable roof), custom wheels, a 3-inch lower suspension, performance chip and exhaust, Recaro sport seats, a Momo steering wheel, and a booming Sony sound system.

Seldom-seen speed demons

black typhoon SUV races alongside a steam train

Source | Creative Commons

With just under 3,000 produced, the Syclone is a rare breed indeed. The following year, 1992, the new Typhoon carried the hot-rod truck torch for GMC as the company released the speedy SUV. Essentially the same vehicle as the Syclone but with a more practical compact SUV body, the Typhoon allowed up to five people, rather than just two, to revel in the ridiculously rapid performance of this vehicular wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Do you remember the Syclone? Tell us what you thought about it.

Mower Time: Getting Ready for Spring

 

lawn mower on grass

Source | Daniel Watson/Unsplash

Your lawn mower might not have a 450hp big block, but believe it or not, the same tune-up principles for your classic muscle car apply to your lawn and garden equipment. If it has an engine, it’s going to need a little bit of prep work to perform its best this spring. Here’s a guide to what needs replacing, what just needs attention, and some general mower maintenance advice.

Walk-behind mowers

Walk-behind push mowers have some of the simplest engines currently made. That makes them easy to work on for any skill level. If you’ve never done any kind of maintenance work before, give it a try with these super-simple tasks.

Oil change

Like with your car, you need to change the oil in your mower on time. This depends on the number of hours and how you use it. Usually most homeowners can get by with changing the oil once a season. Push mowers are cheap and easy to maintain; they don’t have an oil filter and only need one quart of oil. It’s definitely faster and easier than changing oil in your car: tip the mower on its side to drain the oil out the filler spout, then set it upright and refill with fresh oil. Remember to drop off the old oil for recycling.

Spark plug

Spark plugs wear out, too. Like with oil, it’s a good idea to change them at the start of each season. All it takes is a single wrench. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to buy lawn- and garden-equipment spark plugs at a power-equipment store. We stock your Honda’s BPR6 spark plug or your MTD’s RC12 at stores and online too.

Air filter

The air filter keeps dirt, grit, and grass out of the precision internal-engine components. Being down near the debris and spinning blades makes for one filthy air filter that decreases performance. Check the filter throughout the season and replace as needed, usually at least once a season.

Blades

Before you fire up the mower, check the condition of the blade(s). Clean off any excess grass clumps and check for cracks or large chips in the blade. If you find any, it’s time for a replacement. This is easier than it looks—use a wrench to remove the center bolt. If your blade is in good shape, it may only need sharpening. A sharpening kit is about the same price as a new blade but will save you money in the long run.

Ethanol-free gas

Most small engines prefer ethanol-free gas, so fuel up with that if it’s available in your area. Never use E15 or higher ethanol fuels in small equipment not rated for it.

riding lawn mower

Source | Gord Webster/Flickr

Riding mowers

If you’ve gotten this far, we’re guessing you don’t have a small lawn. Riding mowers are great for cutting large amounts of tall grass in a small amount of time, but they do need some extra work. All the above advice for push mowers also applies to riding mowers. The oil change needs a couple more quarts, and there’s oil and fuel filters to swap out, too. Here’s what else to look for.

Blade belt

Under the deck, check the condition of the blade belt and pulleys. A slack belt will cause excessive noise and lack of cutting, so adjust the tensioner and/or buy a new belt. Grease the pulleys to ensure they freely spin.

Battery

Pull out your multimeter and check the voltage of the battery. On a 12V battery, if it tests at less than 10.5V, trickle charge until full and give it a try. If it does not stay charged between mows, then it’s time for a new battery.

Tires

That rider has could’ve been sitting in the same spot all winter. That’s never good for the tires. Look for cracks, dry rot, or flat spots, then inflate to the recommended pressure listed on the side of the tire. If the tires are damaged or don’t hold air, replace them.

… And prep yourself

Safety comes first, so wear gloves when working near the blades. Eye protection is recommended while riding or using a side-discharge push mower. Small engines are disproportionately loud for their size, so remember to wear ear protection any time the mower is running.

Do it right and safe, so you can get your lawn done on the first pass. Spring and summer offer perfect car-show weather, so do your mowing, then get back to wrenching.

Share your lawn and garden tips and tricks with others in the comments below.